While South Africa continues to maintain its position as Africa’s strongest constitutional democracy and is home to a vibrant parliament, there have been increasingly vocal and sustained criticisms claiming that the Executive is not being held to account within the national and provincial parliaments. Opposition members, civil society and the private sector have also criticised the ruling African National Congress (ANC) regarding social, economic and political challenges – including student protests, mining disinvestments, corruption scandals and the fall of the South African rand – arguing that constitutional democracy is being undermined. The 2016 local government elections will be a test of how firmly the ruling party’s grip on the electorate remains, ahead of the 2018 elections.
The SAPL programme targets the nine provincial parliaments’ capacities in budget oversight, gender and public consultation with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of their work.
Example of activities
Recent activities implemented include the strengthening of existing women’s caucuses in three provincial legislatures and the re-establishment of women’s caucuses in three provinces through a training and dialogue session that provided an opportunity to exchange knowledge and lessons as well as developing strategies towards the advancement of women’s rights.
The programme further facilitated open dialogue and capacity development for the Limpopo Speakers’ Forum Annual Meeting on the functioning and effectiveness of the Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) and, in Mpumalanga, on best practices in knowledge management, particularly with regards to the timeliness, quality and quantity of financial reports and data.
Additionally, a training workshop was held for parliamentary whips from six provincial legislatures on their roles, duties and responsibilities.
Work with staff included a lesson-learning/sharing and capacity building seminar on gender and public participation wards ensuring women’s views are gathered in public consultation processes and that there is a chain of feedback.
Further, training was held for senior accounts staff to increase their capacity to track and process expenditure as well as to provide correct data to MPs, following the failure of most legislatures to receive clean audits from the Auditor General.
Throughout 2015, 102 MPs and 34 members of staff received training.
Outcomes from the work with the women’s caucuses included a technical report on the state of the provincial women’s caucuses. This included a capacity assessment that will form the basis for future training activities and serve as a lobbying tool to influence Provincial Speakers to institutionalise the caucuses.
In Limpopo, input from the Office of the Auditor General and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) provided impetus for the formulation of a strategy to make public participation more functional, systematic and meaningful, particularly in view of the violent civil unrest in the province over poor service delivery. Further, following the training for accounting staff, Limpopo received a clean audit.
Research staff participating in the seminar on gender and public consultation have since initiated direct contact with each other for the purposes of knowledge sharing on best practices and exchanges during public consultation processes.